Mary Holden Illingworth’s Dress

Front facing image of dress designed by Charles Frederick Worth for Mary Holden Illingworth © Leeds Museums and Galleries

We recently helped Leeds Museums to purchase, at auction, a collection of clothes worn my Mary Holden Illingworth.

Mary Holden Illingworth (1838 – 1908) was part of an important Yorkshire family and the daughter of a self made man, Isaac Holden (1807 – 1897). Her Father Isaac Holden was originally from Glasgow and came to Yorkshire where he made his fortune in the weaving industry. He successfully set up mills in Bradford and also in Paris, where the Holden family also resided for some time. Isaac Holden, having come from a humble background wanted the best for his children and this included a good education and also the best that money could buy, including clothes.

Mary had a great interest in fashion and this can be read in the diaries that she kept and also through the clothes that have survived. This can be seen in particular in the one of the dresses that the Friends helped us to purchase. In 1881 Mary’s eldest daughter was due to marry and for this occasion she chose to have a dress made by her favourite designer Charles Frederick Worth. Also know as the father of couture, Charles Frederick Worth was an Englishman who set up an extremely successful design house in Paris. His clients including many European royals and other women of great wealth and influence.


This dress was not Mary’s first Worth dress and later Mary was to recount to her granddaughter, Elsie, how ‘fittings were of dubious delight, as Monsieur Worth was of the habit of taking a cup of warm fresh blood straight from the local abattoir at 11am.’

The Savage Club Chair

Savage Club Chair Restoration © Leeds Museums and Galleries

In 2008 we funded a conservation project to conserve (mend and protect) a fantastic piece of furniture with roots firmly embedded in Leeds’ history.  This chair belonged to Edmund Bogg, former Chief of Leeds Savage Club, having been presented to him in 1904.

Without this vital work, the chair would not be on display today (at Leeds City Museum).  The conservation project itself involved;

  1. Replacing the webbing.
  2. Refitting the old springs and replacing the Hessian covering.
  3. Reused old horse hair, bulked up with new, was added to both the seat and back and stitched in. This was then covered with fire resistant calico.
  4. New cotton wadding was added and the chair was re-covered with a supple leather which was chosen as it would give an antique look that would match with the original covering of the chair.
  5. Finally the chair was finished with “antiqued” brass nails. (These were used in preference to brass plated iron nails since they would not rust and leave marks on the leather and the antiqued finish, though rather contrived, would blend in better to imitate the original finish than would bright brass nails which the chair would have had originally.)
  6. Work to the oak frame, which was in a very poor state, was carried out resecuring the inner rail,

All of the materials used in this process were carefully considered to ensure they were in keeping with the original and would be the most enduring over time.  With thanks to Edmund Czajkowski & Son, specialist conservators from Lincolnshire.

Before and After…

Savage Club Chair at Leeds City Museum © Leeds Museums and GalleriesSavage Club Chair at Leeds City Museum © Leeds Museums and Galleries

Save the West Yorkshire Hoard

Cabachon Ring found in Leeds. Part of a hoard found in West Yorkshire © Trustees of the British Museum

Cabachon Ring found in Leeds.  Part of a hoard found in West Yorkshire © Trustees of the British MuseumWe need your help to save the West Yorkshire Hoard.

The Friends of Leeds City Museums and the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society are joining forces today to help save this unique and amazing treasure for the city of Leeds.

The story so far

Discovered by a metal detectorist, the West Yorkshire Hoard is made up of seven objects, six of these being items of exquisite gold jewellery dating from 7th to 11th centuries.  Find out more about the Hoard.

Why do we need to raise the money so quickly?

Leeds Museums and Galleries have been offered first refusal to purchase the Hoard as the local museum service.  If we fail to help them raise the sum of £171,310 that the Hoard has been valued at, they will be sold at auction and lost to our region and most likely, from the public sphere altogether.

Can you help us in our campaign to raise the additional funds needed to purchase the hoard by donating too?

Donate to the Save the West Yorkshire Hoard Appeal


Meet Jack!

Jack the steam engine at Armley Mills © Leeds Museums and Galleries

Jack the steam engine at Armley Mills © Leeds Museums and GalleriesThe company ‘John Knowles (Wooden Box) Ltd’ generously gave JACK, this steam powered locomotive to Leeds Museums, arriving in Leeds in October 1958. Jack has been on display at Armley Mills Museum since 1984 quickly becoming a favourite with the visitors to the Industrial Museum, being run in steam on selected days through the ensuing years.

During Easter 2006 the boiler developed faults which prevented further operation without another expensive refit. An estimate in excess of £20,000.00 was tabled and we were approached with a request to make a grant available for partial funding of the work.

Three competitive quotations were received and an order placed with Israel Newton of Bradford to carry out the work. The extent of funding that we were able to contribute amounted to sixty per cent of the final contract price. The work required very much mirrored that done by McEwen in 1981 with the additional sourcing and purchase of a new smokebox door.

Once Israel Newton had completed the boiler work and the statutory inspections made and certificates issued it was necessary for Derek Davies, the Museum’s Technical Officer, and his team to refit the boiler in the locomotive frame and finish reassembly of the locomotive in general.

Jack is on display today at Armley Mills and steams up regularly thoughout the holidays!

Restoring the Piano at Lotherton Hall

Piano at Lotherton Hall © Leeds Museums and Galleries

Piano at Lotherton Hall © Leeds Museums and Galleries

In 1999 the Friends paid for the restoration of the two historic grand pianos in the Drawing Room at Lotherton. These fine instruments, one of which belonged to the Salt family of Saltaire were previously all but unplayable. Their restoration inaugurated a highly successful programme of music recitals which is now in its thirteenth year.